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Liberals to buy 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighter jets to fill ‘capability gap’

The Liberal government will “immediately explore” the acquisition of 18 Boeing Super Hornet jet fighters to meet what it deems to be the urgent needs of the air force.

Announcing the plan to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s, the government said it will also launch, within its current mandate, an “open and transparent competition” to replace the jets.

The government will enter into discussions with the U.S. government and Boeing regarding use of these jets for “an interim period of time,” according to a government release.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the government can no longer rely solely on its aging fleet of CF-18s to meet Canada’s international obligations to NATO and NORAD. Overflying the planes would carry risks the government is not prepared to make, he told a news conference in Ottawa.

“That would be imprudent and irresponsible,” Sajjan said.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote said the procurement process for the ultimate replacement will ensure the right aircraft at the right price. The process will be designed in a way to maximize competition and could take about five years, she said.

The decision over whether to replace Canada’s CF-18s with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a single-engine stealth jet that is being developed by the U.S. and several partner nations including Canada, has been mired in controversy due to costs and other issues. Sajjan said Tuesday Canada will remain part of the F-35 project.

Sajjan held consultations with different industry players about Canada’s fighter jet replacement program in the summer.